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Gold mining in Rebkong endangers human lives and ecology, TAP Huangnan, Qinghai, China

A Chinese gold mining operation pollutes the Gu Chu river putting in danger sources of livelihood for Tibetans.


Mining operations boomed in Tibet after the opening of the Gormo-Lhasa railway line in 2006. Tibet has witnessed repeated protests at various mining sites by locals against the government-backed mining companies. In 2009, following regular appeals made by Tibetans in Gyama, Central Tibet to the local authorities against large scale gold mining which was causing irrevocable damage to the ecology, armed security personnel were sent into the region to arrest and intimidate Tibetans from carrying out further protests. In April 2011 Tibetans in Rebkong, in the Qinghai province in the northeast Tibet, were arrested and imprisoned on false charges after they filed numerous grievances and complaints to the local authorities and to the central government against a mining company digging for gold in the upper reaches of Rebkong area. The water of Gu Chu river, originating from a mountain revered for generations in Ku-Dhe Karong, is being used for consumption by Tibetans and their animal herds. But a gold mining by the Chinese government which was built approximately in 2001, polluted the river and put in danger sources of livelihood. In fact the waste generated from the gold mining activities are being openly dumped on the pastures with least concerns, destroying the local biodiversity [1].  An other issue of concern is the sanctity of the territory because there are nine different prayer sites for travelers and pilgrims and it’s considered the home of a divinity [3]. Consequently the local residents many times have laid down to the local authority numerous complaints against the gold miners, but without any reply. Instead, their complaint turned against the villagers; in fact according to an anonymous source, four men have been implicated into courts for two years and at the end imprisoned in Siling prison, and two person were wandering the pastures to escape by the police. [1] Unfortunately there isn't much information about the protest related to the environmental impacts by the gold mining and about what happened to the protesters. Certainly in this territory the sacredness of the mountains and the political awareness about the Tibetan situation, originated many protests against the Chinese authorities and many immolation episodes beyond the environmental issue and there are many articles and report about that [2] [4] [5].

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Gold mining in Rebkong endangers human lives and ecology, TAP Huangnan, Qinghai, China
State or province:Qinghai, Prefecture Huangnan, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
Location of conflict:Tongren, in tibetan Rebkong
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Gold
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Start of the conflict:15/04/2011
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Forms of mobilization:Official complaint letters and petitions
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Waste overflow, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The villagers complaints didn't recive any answer and on the contrary they turned against the citiziens with hurried arrests.
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[3]Geoffrey Samuel, Reb Kong in the multiethnic context of a MDO: religion, language, ethnicity and identity; in Monastic and Lay Traditions in North-Eastern Tibet, August 22, 2013
[click to view]

[4]PEN international,Writers in Prison Committee. Case List, September 2015
[click to view]

“Environmental Protest on the Tibetan plateau” released by Britain based Tibet Watch, January 2015
[click to view]

[5]Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy ,Human Rights Situation in Tibet, Annual Report 2012
[click to view]

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights & Democracy, Into Thin Air An Introduction to Enforced UDisappearances in Tibet
[click to view]

Copper and gold mining in Tibet, Copper and gold mining in Tibet, October 11 2011 by rukor-admin
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

TCHRD - China’s gold mining in Tibet, 1997
[click to view]

[click to view], BBC Report: Tibetans displaced within region ‘amid rampant mining’, December 14, 2013
[click to view]

[1], Rampant gold mining threatens human lives and ecology in Rebkong, 28 April 2011
[click to view]

[2]The guardian, Five Tibetans set themselves on fire in protest at Chinese rule, November 8, 2012
[click to view]

[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

TibetonlineTV News 30 April, 2011; Headlines ◆ His Holiness Encourages Japanese to Move On With Hope

and Courage ◆ Rampant gold mining threatens human lives and

ecology in Rebkong
[click to view]

Other documents

[1], Rampant gold mining threatens human lives and ecology in Rebkong, 28 April 2011 Gu Chu River in Rebkong, northeastern Tibet
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Myriam Bartolucci, EJAtlas internship researcher, [email protected]
Last update08/02/2018
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